74 - A Christian Response to the Presidential Election Outcome
|Written by Patrick Morley|
|Wednesday, December 10 2008 10:30|
I have decided to write this article before the outcome of the presidential election is known, because a Christian response to the election should not depend on the outcome.
This is a non-partisan article. Christians have voted for both candidates. So should members of one party like this article and not the other, then I will have failed. Perhaps everyone will dislike it equally.
It is human, normal, and American to want your candidate to win. In fact, all the wrangling is really about this: I want my candidate to win.
What conclusions, though, can be drawn because one candidate wins over the other? The correct answer is, "None." We simply do not know what God is doing. (And as I often jest, He rarely checks with me about anything.) The election of either candidate could easily be meant as a blessing or a chastening for our nation, and only time will tell.
A LESSON ABOUT REASON
What can we learn about ourselves from a time like this?
Persuasive voices have waxed eloquent on both sides of this election crisis. You no doubt have wondered, "How can such reasonably intelligent people look at the same facts and come to exactly the opposite conclusions?"
Before November, 2000 one might have thought, "Human reason is pretty reliable." No more. Those of us who didn't already know it have learned a clear lesson about the limitations of human reason.
Reason is clouded by vested interest. Bottom line: notwithstanding all the terrific arguments, everyone wants their man elected. Everyone argues not for an impartial truth, but from their vested interests. As a friend said, "Where you sit is where you stand."
We see the same problem in every arena of life: legal disputes, marriage, business deals, religion, politics, and economic theory. For example, take the buying and selling of a house. The seller can tell you all the reasons why the house ought to bring $10,000 more than the appraised value, but the buyer can tell you all the reasons why it's worth $10,000 less. We see from our own perspective; we see what we want to see.
The Bible doesn't leave this without comment: "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him" (Proverbs 18:17). A lawyer friend said, "Once I told a judge that all I was interested in was justice. He stopped me and said, 'Hold it right there. You're not interested in justice and neither is your opponent. You are interested in winning this case. I'm the only one here interested in justice.'"
This election shows the limitation of reason to consider all facts, all angles, all perspectives. Our minds are not big enough, our memories not long enough, and our interests not objective enough. Perhaps one purpose of reason is to show us that reason is not enough.
In a recent issue of this newsletter entitled, "Should You Be an Optimist or a Pessimist?" I suggested that in spite of all the negativity around us, and I would add because of all the negativity around us, we must let our theology determine our attitude, not our circumstances. Not our feelings. Not our experience. Not our own best thinking. Not our wisdom. But our Bibles. What does the Bible tell us? Is God surprised? Did this election catch God off guard?
First, God determines the outcome of elections. God is not sitting in heaven nervously wringing His hands about the outcome of the election. His hands will determine the outcome of the election. What does the Book tell us? Consider these verses (a handful among many), …For there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Romans 13:1). The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD (Proverbs 21:31). To man belong the plans of the heart but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue (Proverbs 16:1) In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Second, God does this so that we will know He is sovereign. In Daniel chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar ("Chad" for short?) had a terrifying dream. Daniel explained the dream meant he would be driven from office, given the mind of an animal, and eat grass-which is exactly what happened. According to the Bible, this was "so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men" (Daniel 4:17). God sees to it that whomever He wants is elected.
Third, God will direct our next president as he pleases. Whoever is sworn in as our next president will not be able to accomplish, nor prevent, a single task unless God causes or allows it. Every president, whether he acknowledges it or not, is subject to the authority of God, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases (Prov. 21:1).
Fourth, our part is to work for the peace of America. In Jeremiah's letter to the captives in Babylon he encouraged them, "And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray to the LORD for that city where you are held captive, for if Babylon has peace, so will you" (Jeremiah 29:7). If America prospers, you prosper.
I believe America is the greatest nation in the world. America is not a Christian nation, but it is a nation with many Christians. There are Christians everywhere. And yet, there is a growing sense that the orthodox are losing ground to the progressives (to use James Davison Hunter's terms from his book Culture Wars). The progressive vision "appears" to be replacing the orthodox vision. Maybe, maybe not. Our job, however, is not to control the political and philosophical ideology of America. Our job is to be a faithful witness to the reconciling power of Jesus Christ.
Fifth, we are called to submit to and pray for governing authority. Again, Romans 13:1: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." And, "It is necessary to submit to the authorities" (13:5). We may agree with our leaders or not, but obedience and submission are not subject to debate. This doesn't mean that a wicked leader nor wickedness should be tolerated, but we must work through the institutions of law ordained by God.
A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
Come January, half the country is going to be disappointed, and a few of those will be angry. Half the country is going to be glad, and a few of those will be smug.
So what do you say when your barber or golfing buddies bring up the election outcome? Christians have a golden opportunity to clarify by word and deed the differences between true Christianity and secular Christianity. What distinguishes a Christian from a non-Christian response?
First, we must not be bitter if our man loses, nor smug if our man wins. By his faith a Christian should accept God's sovereign choice. By his deeds a Christian should focus on reconciliation, peace, and loving one another.
Second, this nation will heal. This nation will heal more quickly if Christians act Christianly. A core idea of Christianity is the concept of forgiveness and healing. Christians should be at the forefront of reconciliation, forgiving, and asking forgiveness. Let's make sure we pray for the healing of our nation. God is a physician and healer. We are His agents. The height of our love for God is measured by the depth of our love for one another.
Third, let's not have Christians talking the language of secularity. Let's not slip into old patterns of negativity. Let's have our theology determine our stance. Let's not be secular in our response. Secular humanism is no threat to God; what bothers God is secular Christianity.
Here's what I plan to say, "My comfort is in the sovereignty of a holy, gracious, loving God. Because God sovereignly rules over the nations, I do not fret over who rises to power. I know that through the 1st coming of Jesus Christ, God has already begun bringing all things in heaven and on earth together under His authority and eternal rule. We happen to live in the time between the first and second coming of Christ Jesus. Yes, the devil and the flesh are out on bail, but the trial is scheduled. We just don't know when. In the meantime, think of all the wonderful lessons we've learned through this election like…."
What will you say?
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
©2000. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved. This may be reproduced with proper attribution for non-commercial purposes.